Building workers sent home after union launches safety blitz

Construction workers on the University of Technology, Sydney building site in Ultimo were sent home by Lend Lease managers on Tuesday after a union launched a safety audit on the company's building sites nationally.

Brian Parker, NSW secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, said workers on the site of UTS's Chau Chak Wing Building were sent home after the union identified failures in evacuation procedures as part of its safety blitz.

Mr Parker said an inspection of the site on Tuesday found it did not have an emergency evacuation back-up plan.

"There was a meeting of all the workers on the site and everyone was sent home and will report back at 7.30am tomorrow [Wednesday] for an explanation of what all the processes are," he said.

The Herald understands that Lend Lease also called the police alleging the union had breached its right of entry to the site.

Lend Lease rejected claims by the union that it had compromised on safety standards and it accused the union of trying to create a distraction from its own controversies.

The union's safety audit comes as it prepares to face the federal government's royal commission into the union movement.

On Monday, the Victorian Supreme Court issued the union with a $1.25 million fine and criminal convictions for contempt of court after its blockade of a Grocon building site in Melbourne in 2012.

CFMEU National Construction Secretary Dave Noonan said the union was conducting safety audits on all Lend Lease sites around Australia in response to the recent fire on the Barangaroo building site and another at UTS, when a crane caught on fire in November 2012.

He said Lend Lease had no evacuation plan in place when the crane caught fire.

He said that, more than a year later, after Lend Lease was supposed to have developed a workable evacuation plan, it was unable to confirm workers' safety for up to two and a half hours after the Barangaroo site caught fire. Lend Lease has not disputed this claim.

A spokeswoman for Lend Lease said: “Safety is Lend Lease's number one priority.

"We strongly refute the claims the CFMEU is making and we understand their discomfort at our support for the return of the [Australian Building and Construction Commission] and the upcoming royal commission.”

This story Building workers sent home after union launches safety blitz first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.